Nick Roumel: Chicken 2 x 4

 As a law student and young lawyer, back in the day when all things healthy started and ended with a boneless, skinless chicken breast, I developed two chicken recipes for special occasions, such as intimate dinners, or gala fundraisers. Each recipe featured four ingredients. One has stood the test of time; I’ve taken the other under advisement.

The first was as a law student. I liked the idea of crunchy chicken that isn’t fried, so I wondered, why not use crushed almonds? I mixed them with chopped parsley, paprika, and … something else. It may have been garlic, possibly salt. I coated the chicken with it and baked it.
 
Did I marinate, or dredge the chicken in anything? I have no idea. What I do remember is that the recipe worked fine in a small batch, but when our law school clinic had a party, and I volunteered to cook this chicken, it didn’t go so well. That is because I tried making about twenty pounds in a small apartment oven in the space of about an hour. Rushing it to the buffet table as the party was starting, I worried whether it was completely done. I remember one attorney went up for thirds, or perhaps fourths. It made me kind of proud.
 
Today, however, recreating that recipe, I know I would have to marinate the chicken. A good all purpose marinade includes buttermilk or yogurt, lemon, thyme, salt, garlic, and of course, Frank’s “Ancient Greek Recipe” Hot Sauce. Soak a few hours or overnight; then mix the crushed almonds, chopped parsley and a spicy paprika in a bag (roughly 2:1:1 ratio). Place a chicken piece or breast inside, and shake it, not unlike a Polaroid picture. Bake at 350° until golden brown and baked through. It never hurts to slather some pats of butter on each piece of chicken as it bakes.
 
The other recipe is more of a sweet thing. Again four ingredients. A couple of chicken breasts marinated with a lot of orange marmalade (1/2 cup), 2 TBS soy sauce, a clove or two of garlic, and a TBS of grainy mustard; Dijon is good but so is a honey mustard. A light touch of crushed red pepper is a nice addition. (The fruit sugar in the marmalade will help tenderize it but it wouldn’t hurt to throw a little canola oil into the marinade as well.)
 
This recipe was fine on the grill. People liked the flavor combination. But tinkering recently, I thought, why not also try baking with a crushed almond coating? So I did. Marinated this recipe in the “magic four” ingredients, did the Shake ‘n’ Bake thing with crushed almonds (“And ah helped!”), and baked the breasts at 350 until done, 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts ... or whether you have crowded 50 or 60 pieces into an apartment oven. 
 
Baking is tricky. It’s easy to overcook chicken. I mean, how are you supposed to peer between the almond bits to see if the skin is done? And who even uses a meat thermometer for a chicken breast? My own meat thermometer, a gift from some unknown Christmas white elephant exchange, involves electricity and a digital readout. A failed attempt to use it once, and it has been relegated to the back of the cabinet. Next purge, I swear it’s gone. No, I wasn’t talking about you, honey. Honest.
 
The best way is to cut into it and see if the juices run clear. If so it’s ready to be served, but the problem is then you are serving a piece of chicken that has been cut. You can use chicken glue, which is hard to find; the easier thing is to gather up some of the stray almond bits on the baking sheet to fill in the gap. None will be the wiser.
 
Two recipes, four ingredients each. Each with potential but semi-fraught with deficiencies. I’ll keep working on them. As soon as I find some chicken glue to hold together those 2 x 4’s.  
 
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.Nick ROumel: 

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